At-Large Council Election: Good to Be the Incumbent
For once, holding down the seat might have actually helped.
After this week’s special election results in the race for the D.C. At-large Council seat vacated by Phil Mendelson’s rise to the council chairmanship, you’d have to say, that familiarity helped Anita Bonds, the veteran Democratic Party official who held the seat on an interim basis win, and so did sweeping victories in four of the District's black majority wards.
Conversely, Patrick Mara, the D.C. Board of Education member and a Republican running in his third race for a council seat, scored strong again in the affluent, pre-dominantly white Wards 2 and 3, including Georgetown.
But then, Mara, who had been endorsed by the Washington Post, the Sierra Club and the Chamber of Commerce, an unusual political trifecta, to say the least, looked to have a very good chance to win this time. He presented himself as a moderate, conservative on economics, more in line with the city’s progressive makeup on social issues. An expected low turnout—it was below 10 percent, a little lower than predicted—should have been an advantage for Mara, but it wasn’t the case. He actually finished third behind Democrat Alissa Silverman, the former Loose Lips columnist for the City Paper and economic policy specialist who ran a strong, spirited campaign and did especially well in Wards 1 and 6.
Bonds finished with 32 percent of the vote, Silverman got 28 percent and Mara had 23 percent, according to unofficial Board of Election results. Bonds, 68, and running in her first campaign for office, had created a bit of a stir late in the campaign when she appealed to black voters to vote for her.
The numbers in Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8 were impressive—she got 46 percent in Ward 4, 60 percent in Ward 5, 78 percent in Ward 7 and 79 percent in Ward 8. The results are as much about race as about the great economic divide that still exists in the city in spite of its current budget surplus and general affluence which has not yet made itself felt in the city’s poorer wards.
Mara won a lively battle in Ward 3, where he rolled over both Matthew Frumin, who was from Ward 1, and Silverman.